Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

Ensuring continuity

This section provides a space to explore challenges and solutions available to National Statistical Offices to be agile and innovative in adapting their data production methods and processes and ensure continuity of major official statistical programmes.

Survey on the Implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data

In recent years and in multiple fora, governments around the world have recognized that all countries need to have accessible, timely, and reliable disaggregated data to measure progress and ensure no one is left behind in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. There is also a global consensus on the need to intensify efforts to transform statistical capacities in poorer countries.

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Keeping Labour Data Flowing during COVID - What did We Learn? A Conversation with Kieran Walsh, Senior Statistician, ILO Department of Statistics about the ILO Global Survey with National Statistical Offices

The ILO Department of Statistics recently published a report on a global survey with national statistical offices on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour force surveys and dissemination of labour market statistics. We have the pleasure to have a conversation with Mr. Kieran Walsh for some insights about the report and how it informs the work programme of ILO in the future.

National statistical offices still face disruptions and challenges as they adapt to a “new normal”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out, national statistical offices (NSOs) around the world acted to suspend face-to-face interviews and asked staff to work from home, even though many lacked adequate technology for remote work.

Surviving the COVID stress test: the leading experience of KOSTAT

South Korea’s success in combating COVID-19 certainly has many lessons to offer to the rest of the world, so has its national statistical system. When the first shock of COVID-19 hit the country between early March to mid-April in 2020, Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) was at its busiest time preparing for a number of household surveys such as the household finances and living conditions survey and employment survey.

Ensuring continuity in survey operations while mitigating risk of COVID-19 transmission: new guidance available

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a major challenge for household survey programs, as the health risks posed by the virus and associated restrictions disrupted traditional face-to-face survey operations in many countries. According to a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on national statistical offices conducted by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the World Bank in May 2020, 96 percent of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) had partially or fully stopped face-to-face data collection.

Dealing with disruption: National statistical offices are adjusting to continued challenges as COVID-19 keeps affecting their operations

As various global restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue, so do disruptions to the operations of National Statistical Offices. This comes at a time when data remain key to inform evidence-based policymaking that addresses the manifold public health, economic, and social challenges countries face.

Survey of National Statistical Offices during COVID-19

The World Bank and the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD), in coordination with the five UN Regional Commissions, are conducting a global online survey to assess the impact of the coronavirus crisis on statistical offices, and to identify needs for financial and technical support.

Coping with the pandemic crisis: what do national statistical offices need the most?

The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage countries across the world taking a heavy toll, with more than 25 million cases and over 750,000 deaths globally as of this writing. Most countries are still under some restrictions to limit the spread of the virus and continue to operate in emergency mode. National statistical systems also continue to face tremendous challenges as a result of the crisis at a time when data are more urgently needed than ever to inform critical interventions to save lives, restart the economy and address the long-term impact of the pandemic.

Time to communicate and engage: Interview with Dr. Ola Awad, President of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics

Jenna Slotin, from the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, discusses with Dr. Awad how the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is coordinating national COVID-19 data collection, production and dissemination efforts while responding to the operational challenges of the pandemic. Dr. Awad underlines the importance of working with stakeholders within and outside government to set priorities and to ensure that the National Statistical Office is fully integrated into policy making.

Interview with Prof. Samuel Annim, Government Statistician of Ghana

In an effort to support national statistical offices and partners around the world during the outbreak of COVID-19, the United Nations Statistics Division has launched a conducting a series of interviews with representatives at the front lines of national statistical systems responding to the pandemic. Professor Samuel Annim, in conversation with Deirdre Appel from Open Data Watch, shares his thoughts and experiences on the response of Ghana Statistical Service to the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Six United Nations statistical offices work together to support countries in managing the COVID-19 pandemic

As the world tackles the spread of COVID-19 and its unprecedented impacts on economies, societies and the environment, we are all stepping into unknown territory. Everybody, from politicians to parents, from newly unemployed workers to nurses, from supermarket cashiers to schoolchildren in front of computer screens, faces great uncertainty. But not everything is unknown. We can arm ourselves with facts to navigate through this uncertainty, guiding decisions and informing plans.

COVID-19 widens gulf of global data inequality, while national statistical offices step up to meet new data demands

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacted a heavy toll, with more than 6 million cases worldwide and nearly 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of this writing. Much of the world remains on lockdown, adding loss of livelihood and financial suffering to the grave health impacts of the virus.

Interview with Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician of the United Kingdom

Chief Statisticians from across the world are leading the response of National Statistical Systems to the data challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, even in the context of major disruptions in day-to-day statistical operations. Sir Ian Diamond, UK's National Statistician, shares in an interview how the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom is innovating and working together with the family of National Statistic Institutes around the globe to provide timely and reliable data to monitor and contain the spread of the disease and its socio-economic impacts, and to inform the design of effective recovery policies. Here you can find the video recording and a slightly edited transcript of the interview.

Using telephone interviews for household surveys: A conversation with Prof. Jim Lepkowski

Household surveys play an important role in meeting national data needs. But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, household survey programmes in many countries have been impacted in different ways. While some countries have started to use telephone and web surveys for their national surveys, many still rely on face-to-face interviews. It is these operations that have been affected the most by the pandemic. Is now the right moment for countries that have been relying on face-to-face interviews to make the switch to telephone interviews, given that the mobile phone penetration is already quite high in most of the countries? Professor Jim Lepkowski of the University of Michigan, a leading expert on survey methodology, shares his thoughts on designing and conducting telephone surveys in a conversation with the UN Statistics Division (UNSD).

Brazil's capacity-building strategies in pandemic times

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) had to postpone the Population Census until 2021 and suspend the data collection of its in-presence surveys due to the pandemic. As a result, to respond to the new reality of remote work, IBGE’s National School of Statistical Sciences (ENCE) increased the number of e-learning opportunities.

Samoa Bureau of Statistics COVID-19 response

Samoa is one of the few countries that have yet to confirm a positive case of COVID-19. However, the partial lockdown from 21 March to 2 May 2020, and the closure of borders since 25 March to date, have impacted on some of the on-going data collections activities, scheduled trainings and also stakeholder consultations. Some key impacts are listed in this note.

Impact of COVID-19 on the implementation of statistical surveys in the I.R. Iran

The unprecedented outbreak of the coronavirus and its resulting crisis have created a huge challenge to the routines of many governmental, non-governmental, civil society, organizations and businesses. The Statistical Centre of Iran (SCI), like other National Statistical Offices (NSOs), is making necessary adjustments to prevent disruptions in the production of high-quality time series of statistical data and information required by policymakers, academics, researchers and other statistical users at the lowest possible cost and in the shortest possible time. Moreover, the SCI considers itself responsible for observing the health protocols of statistical enumerators as well as respondents to surveys and censuses, and prioritizes keeping the valuable social capital.

UNECE platform on COVID-19 and official statistics: providing practical guidance

The COVID-19 situation presents a double challenge for statistical offices: increased demand for statistics to manage pandemic and its impacts, combined with obstacles to collecting data and producing statistics. To help statistical offices deal with the crisis, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has announced the launch of the UNECE platform on COVID-19 and official statistics. The UNECE platform provides guidance in the areas of UNECE expertise and focuses on the work done under the Conference of European Statisticians (CES). As such, it complements information by other international organizations.

Ensuring the adequate performance of statistical operations in Colombia

Under the current COVID-19 situation and following the directives set by the government of Colombia, the National Statistical Office (DANE) has sought to adopt strategies that ensure the adequate performance of the institution. These strategies have been agreed under the framework of an internal Ad-hoc Emergency Committee that has allowed DANE to quickly adapt to the evolving situation. The adopted measures have been guided by the principle of ensuring the well-being of our staff (with more than 95 percent of DANE’s work force currently telecommuting and all administrative processes having been adjusted to be done virtually), while maximizing statistical production.

Carrying out a telephone survey under the impact of COVID-19 — What to consider

Under the current COVID-19 crisis, what can we learn from our past experience in collecting information through telephone interviews, when person-to-person interview is not possible? This note provides a few points for statistical organizations to consider when deciding whether to adopt such an approach.

Maintaining Civil Registration and Vital Statistics during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting civil registration authorities under an unprecedented level of stress, where the failure to register all vital events may lead to serious difficulties in generating accurate and timely vital statistics. In the framework of the UN Legal Identity Agenda (LIA)—a holistic approach to civil registration, vital statistics and identity management launched in May 2019 and officially endorsed in March 2020—, the UN Legal Identity Task Force is working to assess the impact of COVID-19 on registration of vital events and generating vital statistics, and helping countries address these challenges.

OECD launches digital workspace for official statisticians

The OECD created a protected digital workspace to provide experts with the possibility to discuss problems and solutions or seek advice in a simple and pragmatic way. The workspace is a collaborative effort with logistics being managed by the OECD Secretariat, and participation of several international organizations, among which the United Nations (UN), the United National Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), PARIS21 and others.

Assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the production of International Merchandise Trade Statistics

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) inquired through an informal email consultation with our regional partners whether the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the data production of International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS). Most regions reported that—so far—there is no interruption in data production and transmission, at least until the reference period of February 2020.

Statistics Canada’s COVID-19 response

In response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, Statistics Canada has adopted a strategy that seeks to ensure the continuity of Statistics Canada’s mission critical programs and essential services. This note provides an overview of Statistics Canada's response on such programmes and services, as well as other activites related to monitoring, analysing and modeling the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 epidemic in Canada.

Refocusing statistical capacity development efforts on data stewardship

As the ongoing global crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, there is an increasing risk of less production and dissemination of disaggregated, high quality foundational data in National Statistical Systems (NSS) in developing and least-developed countries, already facing a capacity squeeze. While those NSSs adjust their operations in the face of lockdowns and other mitigation policies, policymakers and citizens need to take quick, informed actions to tackle the crisis--ideally based on quality data accessible to everyone. Consequently, the combination of rising demands and constrained supply of official statistics reduces NSS capacity to contribute to response and recovery activities.

COVID-19 impact on labour market statistics

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has reached out to National Statistical Offices (NSOs) to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on their statistical operations, in particular in the domain of labour statistics and the operation of national Labour Force Surveys (LFS). A note published by ILO with the results of this consultation shows that all countries are facing a major challenge in maintaining continuity and quality, while simultaneously attempting/needing to be flexible and react to changing circumstances.

Use of administrative data sources under COVID-19

In a time when it is difficult to collect data from the field, the use of administrative registers for statistical purposes can be an important alternative source of information to continue making data and statistics available to the public. While many countries already have systems in place for the use of administrative data and would only need to adjust the approach to include more sources, other countries may need to start with the basics.

Challenges of introducing new technologies

National Statistical Offices are being challenged to introduce telephone-based interviewing and web-based self-reporting techniques at once for many critical data collection operations--such as population and housing, agricultural, and economic censuses, as well as household, business and other types of surveys. In many cases, they need to do it without the benefit of prior experience and with very limited time to conduct detailed analysis and testing of the different alternatives.

Impact of COVID-19 on World Population and Housing Census Programme

As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Statistics Division, in its role as Secretariat of the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme, is compiling a country-by-country overview of the pandemic’s impact on census-taking activities in the year 2020. This information is updated daily with details provided by the census managers from countries.

From face-to-face interviews to telephone interviews and web-based self-reporting

In an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, many governments are imposing severe restrictions on the mobility of their populations, disrupting field statistical data collection operations and threatening the ability of National Statistical Offices to deliver high-quality, timely and cost-effective statistical outputs.